It was a sweltering day, the hottest on record in a long time (or so I was told by distraught locals). There I was, a city boy in a concrete jungle on the opposite side of the world. My polo shirt stuck to my torso as I lugged my suitcases across the sidewalk and into the estate, a towering five-story edifice that sported an endearing red sign patterned with the Husky paw print.
“Welcome to Northeastern University!”
Before I knew it, I was home, at least for the next four years.
For as long as I can remember, the words ‘college’ and ‘university’ have always been reminders of what seemed like the distant future. Until one day I found myself a high school graduate heading into his freshman year of college. Yet I can’t help but think of all the ideas I had about college and how those have been either refuted or changed altogether.
The first thing that hit me was the realization that I suddenly went from being a sufficiently pampered kid to an adult who would have to do everything himself. Of course, I’m still dependent on my parents, but this newfound independence and responsibility meant that the onus of getting help was on me whenever I need it.
Help isn’t coming, I must seek it. The first night in the dorm was rather eventful. I didn’t know where the water filters were, and so I woke up in the middle of the night, parched, to find my bedside bottle had run out. Then I stumbled out and went looking for resident assistants like this:
Another misconception that I harbored for much of my high school life was that university was this amazing place that I would just enjoy the second I got there until the moment I graduated.
Alas, it was not so. I learned this in somewhat a ‘hard’ way. From what I had always seen from high school seniors’ Instagrams and Snapchats, I was led to believe that happiness would be bestowed upon me from the day I arrived, not realizing that they had already established a lot of the friendships and routines that worked for them.
This took me a good month to really accept and emulate. I can’t say I’m quite there yet, but I am closer to it than I was the day I stepped on campus.
The reason for me writing this is so that my friends who are in college at the same stage as me, my brother or my younger cousins may stumble upon this later in life and I don’t want them to feel like you are obligated to love college. It’s okay if you don’t love college. There’s almost a forced expectation to love college just because you’re independent and meet new people.
So to answer the question that I’m sure every college student has been asked at some point. ‘Are you happy?’
I don’t know.
I don’t know if I’m happy. It’s not that I’m not happy, but the way I see it, happiness isn’t this quantifiable or tangible concept. For me at least it’s more of an ongoing process rather than a day-to-day evaluation of life.
Happiness, to me, is like rowing. I can see how far I’ve come, but I can’t fully see where I’m going. When I look back on certain parts of my life I can say I was happy, but for where I’m at in the present, I can’t.
Am I enjoying what I’m doing? Definitely. Studying where I am and studying what I am studying is something I’ve always wanted to do.
Am I satisfied with what I’ve achieved and where I’m at? Of course. I’m where I am in life on account of my merit and hard work, and I’m better for it.
Time has really flown since college began. I can’t believe it’s been a month and a half, and though my blogging had taken a backseat to the entire process of settling in, I’ve been getting out and experiencing things for myself like I haven’t ever before.
The part I miss most about home naturally is family. In our small fights and jokes, we really do create something special. So to my family, I love you guys, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without you all, and though I may sometimes be a little lousy responding to your messages and returning your calls, I’m trying my best to make you proud of the person you’ll see when I come back home.
Then come my high school and hometown friends. The ones who despite these harsh winds of change, are the few constants of life. I can imagine myself in December, back home, still making the same jokes that I have been for more than six years through school. You guys are what made long classes tolerable, what made canteen lunches fun and the ones who helped me through a lot of the process of growing up and finding who I was as an individual. I love you all dearly. There come crossroads at which you find out which friends were really your friends and which ones were friendships out of the convenience of seeing each other daily. No matter whether we end up going our own ways or always be in touch, you will all hold a very special place in my heart.
The popular representation of media would have you believe that university is this time of your life filled with more red cups and frat parties than books or classes. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Granted, you’re treated more like an adult and are expected to seek help when you need it and study much on your own, there comes a great degree of responsibility in this. At the end of the day, only I can drive my life to the heights that I want it to reach.
Being in a new city has brought along with a lot of change. Dealing with the fact that my loved ones aren’t one or two rooms away but rather 7,000 miles in itself is pretty daunting to accept. Sometimes my parents feel like I don’t miss them…but I do. I just try to keep myself busy so that I won’t be overcome with the thoughts of home. My love for you both still runs as strong now as it did earlier. It’s just that I have never been the most expressive child ever, and this distance certainly doesn’t make things easy.
My first impression of Boston was mixed, in all honesty. Though I loved the culture and the convenience of everything being five or ten minutes away, everything closed down by 11 PM. I missed the convenience of ordering something to eat at 2 AM, and the drives to get food with my dad at 3 AM. There are great restaurants to try once in a while, and some great places to see. Still, for some reason, this just feels like a really long vacation. Or summer school. Or something.
There are lovely people out here to meet, I won’t lie. Yet it takes a big part of me to go over and introduce myself. I’ve managed to do it quite a bit now, and younger me would have been proud of me now. I’ve met a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life, and all of it makes it seem so much easier to find a home here.
And though I’ve loved the process of becoming more than who I was, let’s stop pretending that college is something you are obligated to love.
College isn’t exactly gonna be four years of fun. It’s not going to be dissatisfying either, but I just feel there is more for us all to gain in talking about the ups and the various downs of college life.
So, to everyone that’s in college right now, friends or family, or fellow Freshmen/Sophomores/Juniors/Seniors: